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Species at risk decision making

Species at Risk: A shared responsibility

The Species at Risk Act (SARA, 2004) is administered by three core federal departments

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Manages aquatic species other than for those individuals found in Parks Canada-managed waters

Parks Canada Agency (PCA)

Manages individuals of species found in or on the federal lands it administers

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)

Manages all other species, including migratory birds

Purpose of SARA

The purpose of SARA is to:

Your overall SARA decision-making role

Your role in the full SARA decision making process



Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC – arms- length scientific assessment body) assesses species.

The Minister of ECCC is responsible for all response statements on consultation plans.

For aquatics on your recommendation.


Three possible listing options:

  • List
  • Do not list
  • Refer back to COSEWIC

The Minister of ECCC makes all listing recommendations to GIC.

You provide advice for aquatics to the Minister of ECCC.

Recovery Planning

Recovery strategies, action plans, and management plans

You are responsible for approving these recovery documents.


GIC automatic prohibitions on listing for certain species (endangered, extirpated, threatened).

You are required to protect the critical habitat through ministerial orders that trigger prohibitions.


SARA requires you to monitor and report on the implementation of recovery plans every five years.

How the Department supports you

DFO support for Species at Risk decisions

DFO supports you in the following ways:

  1. Participates in assessments
  2. Provides recommendations on listing and critical habitat protection advice
  3. Implements and enforces protection and certain recovery measures applicable to listed aquatic species (e.g., Critical Habitat Orders and Prohibitions)
  4. Prepares recovery documents
  5. Implements recovery measures through science, collaboration with external stakeholders (i.e., Grants and Contribution programs), and management efforts
  6. Monitors and reports on progress of recovery activities

Departmental support is informed by:

Science advice

Peer reviewed scientific information outlining status, and what is necessary to recover species

Socio-economic considerations

Analysis of socio-economic impacts of species recovery and protection activities, as well as the costs and benefits of stated recovery and protection measures


A broad set of advisory processes to determine views on conservation and management efforts

Legal advice

On the operation of the Act and court interpretations

Tri-departmental policy

A suite of tools (some under development) for consistent approaches to the implementation of the Act for terrestrial and aquatic species

DFO policy

A suite of tools to guide on-the- ground implementation of the Act for aquatic species

Considerations for decision making

Current issues

Annex A: SARA – Detailed process



COSEWIC, an independent committee of scientists and experts, assess species as extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, of special concern, data deficient or not at risk

Within 90 days of receipt of the COSEWIC Annual Report, the Minister of ECCC must publish a response statement


Legal listing of a species occurs when it is added to Schedule 1 of SARA; this constitutes regulatory action

Government must make one of the following decisions: list the species at the status assessed by COSEWIC; decide not to list; or, return the assessment to COSEWIC for further consideration

Emergency Listing also possible

Recovery Planning

Recovery strategies are required for species listed as threatened, endangered, or extirpated

Action Plans flow out of Recovery Strategies and must state proposed measures to implement the Recovery Strategy

Management Plans contain measures for conservation of the species species of special concern


Minister is required to protect the critical habitat of a threatened, endangered of extirpated species by triggering the prohibition against destruction

Various tools such as prohibitions, Orders to protect critical habitat, and conservation agreements

Emergency Orders also possible


SARA requires the Minister to assess and report on the implementation of Recovery Strategies, Management Plans and Action Plans every 5 years until their objectives are met or the species’ recovery is no longer feasible

Annex B: External engagement mechanisms

Annex C: Recent investments/funding

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